I met Liz in a grocery store. We struck up a conversation over the cost of broccoli. As we stood there blocking the isles with our baskets, we talked for quite a while. During that time, I found out that Liz’s husband, Jack, had testicular cancer and was not expected to live and that she was his sole caregiver.
She seemed so upbeat for a person in her situation that I had to ask her how she managed to keep such a positive attitude under the circumstances. She smiled and told me her secret was a bath.
I was flabbergasted and had to know more; a lot more. Having been in her situation myself, I understood the day to day physical and emotional challenges she was facing. The depression at seeing someone you love slowly deteriorate. The frustration with how little you can do to help them. Sometimes even guilt because you find yourself getting short with the loved one because your nerves are frazzled and you’re physically exhausted. Maybe her secret could help other caregivers cope.
Liz agreed to meet with me but advised that we would have to meet at her home since she had to be there in case Jack needed her.
A few days later we met. Jack was sitting in the living room watching TV. Liz and I sat at the kitchen table and sipped tea while we chatted. I discovered that Liz was just 50 when she had to quit work to care for Jack. She said that as much as she loved Jack, the 24-hour caregiver job was playing havoc with her physically and mentally.
To make matters worse, Jack didn’t want anyone to care for him except Liz. Not that that made much difference since they couldn’t afford to have hired help since their health insurance had capped out and no longer covered Jack’s illness. Jack and Liz had three kids, but none of them lived close enough to help.
She confided that she was at wit’s end. She told me she even had trouble getting out long enough to grocery shop. She said that Jack had trouble sleeping and so Liz was often up with him at all hours of the night. “I needed a little while just to completely relax and get a grip,” she said.
Liz told me that because of her time and money constraints, she decided to try an experiment. She bought a lavender scented candle, a lavender body lotion, and a bottle of lavender essential oil, and a bar of creamy lavender soap. She told me she chose the lavender scent because she read that lavender was considered one of the most relaxing fragrances.
“I remember the first day of my experiment like it was yesterday,” she said. “It was late, maybe 11:00 or so and Jack was in bed asleep. He’d had a particularly tough day and consequently so had I.
“I set the candle on the bathroom counter and lit it then ran a nice warm bath for myself to which I added a few drops of the scented oil. I soaked for a long time in the tub. It felt wonderful.
“After my bath, I slathered my body with the lotion then put on my robe and slippers. I made myself a nice hot cup of chamomile tea and watched a feel-good show on TV.”
“Did it help?” I asked.
“Absolutely. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. In fact, it helped so much that I repeat it at least once a week. I still have my bad days, but the baths help me cope. I think because they’re like tiny micro-vacations.”
Elizabeth’s Super Cheap Skin Care Tips:
Facial Masks: For normal skin, use a tablespoon of sour cream or plain yogurt. For dry skin, mash up half an avocado or a banana. For oily skin, mash up some fresh strawberries, blueberries or egg whites. Spread the mixture on your clean skin. Keep it on for 15 minutes then rinse it with warm water. Then apply your favorite cream or moisturizer.
Body Oil: Massage light sesame or olive oil onto your warm damp skin after bathing to lock in the moisture.
Body Scrubs: Mix together ½ cup of kosher salt with 1/4 cup light oil or a liquid cleanser. Massage it into your skin before bathing. It will exfoliate your skin.
Hair Treatments: To treat dry or damaged hair, use pure honey as a hair conditioning pack. Massage a tablespoon or two into your damp hair and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. It will feel sticky at first but have no fear. It rinses out easily with warm water.